Two former Tbilisi city municipal officials, charged with illegal entrepreneurship and money laundering, were released on GEL 400,000 (about USD 234,500) bail each on December 18.
Former head of Old Tbilisi district Lasha Purtskhvanidze and his former deputy Koba Kharshiladze were arrested on December 16 and charged in connection to operations of their company Greenservice, which was a contractor of the Tbilisi municipality providing the capital city with range of planting services. The company and its controversial deals with the municipality came into public attention last spring when allegations about over-inflated contract costs emerged.
This arrest of two former municipal officials grabbed media attention also for reasons other than the specific charges that were brought against them. Before becoming Tbilisi municipality official, Koba Kharshiladze was chief bodyguard of PM Zurab Zhvania at the time when the latter was found dead in February, 2005. Arrest of Kharshiladze, although in connection to the case which has nothing to do with Zhvania’s death, triggered speculation that it might be somehow related to the ongoing investigation into Zhvania’s case, which was re-opened after the Georgian Dream came into power late last year.
“I suspect that they [the authorities] want to keep specifically me on the hook,” Kharshiladze told journalists after the court hearing on December 18.
Prosecutions wanted the two former officials to be sent in pre-trial detention pending trial, but the court ordered their release on bail. Defense lawyers said they will most likely appeal the decision and request the higher court to downscale amount of the bail from current GEL 400,000.